Tantalum, lithium: Australian producers release Q1 2019 results

Australian lithium-tantalum producers Alliance Mineral Assets and Pilbara Minerals released results for their Q1 2019 production at the end of April with both companies ramping up production.

Alliance reported production of 38,291wmt of lithium concentrate grading 6.1% Li2O, a 68% increase on Q4 2018 as a result of improved throughput, recovery and grade. Q1 head grade averaged 0.89% Li2O compared to 0.73% in Q4 while gross recovery rates improved from 57% to 68%. Lithium concentrate sales totalled 44,305dmt in Q1, shipping to Jiangxi Bao Jiang Lithium Industrial Limited, as well as a trial amount to a new customer. Stockpiles at the end of the quarter were reported to be 12,373wmt. The company lowered its spodumene concentrate production costs by 33% during Q1, down to A$772/wmt (US$553/wmt) from A$1,152/wmt (US$824/wmt) in Q4. The average selling price for Q1 was A$1,083/dmt (US$780/dmt) lithium concentrate sold, based on 6% Li2O. Meanwhile, tantalite concentrate shipments for Q1 totalled 25,230lb Ta2O5 (30% content).

Alliance Mineral Assets continued its Stage 2 plant upgrade through Q1, including engineering and purchasing of a new fines circuit, commissioning of which has now been pushed back to Q4 2019 (although some improvements to the existing circuit have been brought forward). Combined throughput is now being targeted at 300tph with recovery of 72-80%. The company aims to produce 65-80kt of lithium concentrate (6% Li2O) for the first half of 2019.

Pilbara Minerals’ Q1 output totalled 52,196dmt of spodumene, a 9% increase on Q4 2018 output at 47,859dmt. Q1 spodumene sales were 38,562dmt, a 17% decline on Q4 2018 of 46,598dmt because of the delay of one shipment caused by Tropical Cyclone Veronica. The company reports continued ramp-up with higher production rates though April. Sales of tantalite concentrate from Pilgangoora totalled 30,356lb Ta2O5 (30% content) in Q1, a 9% increase on Q4 sales of 27,821lb Ta2O5.

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